Charlie Rose Transcript, Written By Jeffrey Zablotny
October 12th, 2002
CHARLIE ROSE: Paul Thomas Anderson is the Oscar nominated behind the critically acclaimed films Boogie Nights and Magnolia, his latest film is Punch-Drunk Love. He’s earned the Best Director award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and Sandler stars in what critics call his best performance of his career. I am pleased to welcome AS and PTA to talk about that movie and many other things. We were just saying this is the...third, fourth?
PTA: Third time here.
CR: Where did the idea for this come from?
PTA: Well, there’s a story about this guy who collected all this pudding, which is a true story, a guy went and bought thousands and thousands of dollars worth of pudding that equaled a million frequent flyer miles, so that helped, but the main idea was to write something for Adam. I had a bunch of different chunks of ideas and notions in search of a story kind of thing, but meeting Adam was sort of the trigger to get to work.
CR: Now let me just get on that, because it is the notion, you know he’s box office. Was it part that, but also something else...something about him...
ADAM SANDLER: Wasn’t it all that?
PTA: No, I’ve been trying to sell out for a while...[laughs] That’s exactly it...[laughs]
CR: If you want to sell out, sell out big time. [laughs]
PTA: Get some of that Sandler money! [laughs]
PTA: Jonathan Demme, too. We have competition for Adam Sandler.
CR: You’ve got seven movies coming out?
AS: I have no idea...I have a production company, too. I mean, I’m here to work, Charlie.
CR: Exactly, that’s the way I see it, that’s what I say, too: Why don’t you do a nightly show? I’m here to work! [laughs]
AS: Exactly, I’m not gonna be happy until I get a big job.
CR: It’s made me a different man! It has made me a different man, you know, it will give you more energy, more colour in your face.
AS: Increase that vocabulary. That’s what I’m looking to do.
CR: I’ve got the doctor for you if you decide to do this in about 50 years, all right.
CR: So you get a call from him. Or somebody. You wanna work with him?
AS: Well, here’s what happened. Paul called, we were shooting ‘Little Nicky’ at the time, and Paul comes over and he hangs out, we meet for about five hours, and he just talked about some of the stuff I’ve done in the past, and he’s a Saturday Night Live fan, so we talked about that stuff, and I just thought that he was a great guy. And I did also, I loved Boogie Nights, and then a week later, Magnolia came out, and I thought this guy is pretty damned good, isn’t he. And he said he wanted to work together, do a movie together. And I was just excited, and we went to work...
CR: For you, knowing that you can make movies, lots of movies, to have the possibility of sort of stretching and working in a different direction with a guy who obviously is a craftsman.
AS: Right...It was exciting, for that reason. Y’know, getting to do something different, getting to be with a guy that I, y’know, it’s nice to make new friends too in life, and it was nice to meet this guy and like him. And also, when you shoot and movie, you know you’re gonna be together a long time, and I decided to try to accomplish something that I haven’t really done before.
PTA: Well, liking someone is an actor is one thing, but liking them and a person, you’ve got to know, all right, you’re gonna be fun to be with for a couple years, because it will be a couple years at the end of the day and you’ll want to know them, and want to know if they have similar work ethic, and Adam creates all of his own movies, so it was kind of like verifying what I thought about him to be the truth, so it was kind of like I can see that you’re a good guy, are you really?’
CR: Only about hanging out can you figure about that stuff. Here is what [Paul] said about himself. He once said, I don’t know if I’m the type of guy who wants to run the world like Spielberg, or retreat to a mansion in London like Kubrick, I just haven’t figured it out.
PTA: That’s a bit arrogant isn’t it! [laughs] I was just trying to figure out how to be myself!
CR: Tell me what this movie is about.
PTA: It’s about getting in tune. It is about a love story Between Adam and Emily, about a guy with seven sisters, with four blond crazy brothers coming after him, and getting in tune and finding your music.
CR: What would you add that [Adam]?
AS: Love...Loneliness, becoming happy with yourself and comfortable with ourself and trying to lose some insecurities and growing up. Getting out of your house.
CR: So who is Barry Egan?
AS: Wow, Barry Egan. Paul sometimes says i a lot of I’m a lot like Barry Egan, I think that I’ve seen myself behave like Barry, I’ve seen my brother be like Barry, I’ve seen my friend Judd act like Barry sometimes. I stole from a lot of people in my life and just basically trying to be this guy that he created.
CR: Were you instantly ready to do this? After you met him and liked him?
AS: I was instantly in. I didn’t know what the movie was going to be, I remember when Paul have me the script, and I read it, and I was just, I’m like, ‘oh, this guy is me. Am I able to do this?’ I was nervous, but I was in, there was no was I’m going to say I’m not doing this.
CR: Did you want to change after ‘Magnolia’? Did you say ‘I just did a very heavy film with a lot of heavy talent. Let me go in a different direction with someone who has a different kind of temperament...
PTA: Completely, and I think I was also in a good mood. You want to get away from where you were last, your instinct is to always go left, I can’t stand any more cancer, I can’t stand any more sadness...and, it’s funny because at the time, I was finishing up the editing for Magnolia, like the chicken noodle soup was Adam’s movies, and just really being consumed by ‘I want a piece of that and I want to learn how to do that’ because, you always want to keep moving forward. And I think I was just in a good mood. Feeling happy.
CR: What did you discover about [Adam] that you didn’t know?
PTA: I think I got even luckier than I thought I might get. It was like striking gold, just his, most of all, his -- the work ethic. Like the ability to work hard for a really long period of time, really intensly, and still have an amazing sense of humor, and an amazing sense of humanity.
CR: What is this work ethic about? Is it just simply that this is what you enjoy doing that you’re on a wave and let’s ride it?
AS: I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been kind of having, since I’m 17, I wanted to be a comedian, I wanted to be good at what I did. And I wasn’t that great at it for a long time. I don’t even think that I’ve a master, I’m still trying to grow. But, it’s consumed my head. It’s what I woke up thinking is I want to be good, I want to write jokes, I want to become comfortable as an actor, and I think that’s what drives me, is that I’m obsessed with it, and I’ve seen Paul’s other movies, and I thought they were incredible. I knew he wrote an incredible script, so I said I’d better step it up in my head, and I didn’t want to fail.
CR: And you continue to grow when you feel you grow, when you’re growing and expanding, you’re halfway there, wherever there is.
AS: I know I’m 36 years old, and I have different thoughts than I had when I was 26, and I don’t know what I’ll be thinking when I’m 46. But I know that I want to continue trying to travel in my career with what I’m thinking about.
PTA: That’s the job. That’s the job is figuring where you’re at, at that moment, and you do that then, and by the time it’s over with, you usually want to go the other way.
CR: Trusting your instincts. You’ve also got a phenomenal box office success that you’ve had, there’s something behind that. There is trusting your instructs but you were delivering something to an audience, there’s some sense of insight, intelligence.
PTA: I’ve walked down the street with movie stars, and I’ve never seen anything like it when Adam walks down the street.
CR: What happens?
PTA: He’s there, he’s present, he’s not somewhere else, and people just respond to that, and that’s what I respond to.
CR: How many films do you have that haven’t been released right now?
AS: I have Paul’s film, I have an animated movie coming out, it’s a holiday movie coming out Thanksgiving. Shot a movie with the great Jack Nicholson, it’s called Anger Management, he’s unbelievable in it. And that’ll come out next year. I’m working a lot -- now I don’t know what I’m doing.
CR: You have nothing to do, now you’re gonna take some time off?
AS: No, no, no, I don’t want to have to think too much about myself. I need to jump into the work. I keep hiding. I don’t want them to get to know me. [laughs]
CR: What about Barry Egan? Is he pathetic?
AS: He’s pretty...
PTA: An actor is never going to say his character is pathetic in his movie.
AS: And yet he’s pathetic at times.
CR: What’s the phone sex thing about?
AS: I think that’s loneliness. I don’t think he’s that -- this guy, I don’t think it’s a sexual call as much as he wants to actually talk to somebody, and you know, maybe at the end of it, he’s a man, he gets excited about some of the things the lady is talking about.
CR: You won some awards for this. But after to first two weeks of filming, you just scrapped it.
PTA: I think we were trying to find our footing and figuring out what the hell we were doing. I think I tried to figure out a plan on making this movie. Normally you go and you’ve got a schedule, you’ve got to make that schedule, and you’ve got to do that, but after have done that a few times, you sort of figure out how to spend the money properly. Not that I have ever wasted before but essentially you can shoot for a lot longer than you might normally think, it’s just about proper money management so it enabled us to really take our time, and the first couple weeks, there’s some stuff that remained, but essentially we were trying to find our footing. Once once it happened, you sort of look back and go, okay, now we’re getting to work. So you throw some things out the window, but still stuff remained, so it wasn’t completely a wash. It was the luxury that came from learning more about how to budget the movie and make it last.
CR: Do you think of yourself as a comedian who acts or do you simply think that you have gone from being a comedian now, to settled into being an actor?
AS: Boy, I don’t know. I don’t think about what I am too much. I was obsessed with comedy, and I still am. But I also, you know, I went to college, I studied acting. It was on my mind too, to just be an actor so I’m not exactly sure.
CR: What’s the best comedic experience you’ve ever had? Who taught you the essential sort of skills?
AS: These two guys at SNL, Robert Smigel and Jim Downey, who I became very close with, I think that the writers that I laughed the most at their stuff and I love their taste, and I’m not saying they love my taste, but I’m saying that if they laughed at something I did at Wednesday’s read-through, and if I looked up and saw Downey laughing, I knew that life was good right there.
CR: Are you born with timing or do you learn it?
AS: I think you learn confidence. That’s what happened with me. My timing was -- I can tell when I’m not funny, it’s usually when I’m rushing and I’m kind of scared and the audience can see when I’m scared. If I’m feeling comfortable, it’s usually allright.
CR: It’s true about sports, tennis stroke or a golf stroke, it’s true about this, it is true -- confidence gives you an ease, that makes and allows you to do it better.
AS: If you see a pitcher looking a little nervous to face a batter, you can usually tell he’s not going to pitch too well.
CR: And pitchers who intimidate, like they’ve got your number right, and here it comes.
AS: Right. Like Roger Clemens.
CR: Emily Watson. Why did you cast her?
PTA: I’ve been a fan since ‘Breaking the Waves’. You see somebody give a performance like that, it’s the same thing with Adam -- they’ve got balls, I want to be around them. I want to jump off a cliff with them, someone that daring, and I think that I had in my mind as you’re making a romantic comedy where two people fall in love, they have to be a handsome couple, it’s a pre-requisite, and I thought the two of them together made a handsome couple.
AS: With Emily, it’s like 80/20. [laughs]
CR: Perhaps you don’t even think in terms of this sort of analysis, but is your audience predominantly young teenage guys?
AS: I've heard that. I mean, I think that’s what written a lot.
CR: I happen to know a lot of babes watch me.
AS: I don’t know about that. [laughs] I just know I have different people who will talk to me about my movies.
CR: Many people watch his movies as we believe that all of them are there.
AS: It’s different age groups, but it doesn’t matter. I have seen a lot of stuff the way they say Adam Sandler is just for young boys, but I’ve talked to my mother’s friends and they think I’m all right too. Even the ones that don’t like her, which is a big percentage.
CR: What do you think of these comparisons between you and Jim Carrey?
AS: I think it’s natural for that to happen, I have known since I was a young guy. I’ve known him since I was like 22, and I love him and we’re both comedians. When you go to, when I go to a Carrey movie and I watch him, I go, ‘oh wow, I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t do what he just did.’ So I know he does stuff that I don’t try to do, and I think that I do my own thing.
CR: This is where you take Lance to the grocery store to buy some more pudding.
CR: That’s some good dancing there. No lessons required, either.
AS: I’m just a natural at a lot of things. [laughs]
CR: Tell me, do you have any dreams, obsessions, anything that you are desperate to do?
AS: You know what I want to do? In life, I want to become a little more centered and normal, at home, try to be able to just not to have to work as much as I do.
CR: Are you serious? You’re not putting me on?
AS: No, I would love to live as a normal person, and I love what I’m getting to do, I’m not complaining, I want to continue to work hard...I want to continue to work hard but I’d like to be able to take my girlfriend/fiancee out there, and spend a full meal without in my head going ‘man, I’ve got to write something’. You know, I’m a little nuts.
CR: Do you feel a little insecurity?
AS: I don’t think I’m insecure as much as I want to get a lot done. I was talking to Paul the other night on the phone, if I feel like I’m not trying to accomplish something, I feel like I might be screwing up a little.
CR: This is the reason why he’s so successful.
PTA: It’s a sickness, really.
CR: Did you have to reign him in at all?
CR: Did you have to direct him at all?
CR: In what way?
PTA: Keeping an eye on how he was feeling, that’s really just the job, is being an audience, and making sure that you don’t -- that they don’t stray, and watching him.
CR: Or not focus, but what?
PTA: Just being a collaborator, you’ve both after the same thing. You have your idea of what good is and what quality is, and it can be, after 10 or 15 takes of trying to get it right, it can become really easy to just lose the plot a little bit as an actor. Or what did you eat? Have you eaten enough lunch? Where are we in the day? That’s the job, and you’re looking out for someone’s well-being. That’s really what you do.
CR: Actors can feel that, too. That’s someone’s looking out for them. That a director is really looking out for my best interest here.
AS: Also, the fact that the movies he’s made already, to me, I love them so much, that helped me trust him taking risks and saying he’s going to do the right thing with my performance. He ain’t gonna hang me out to dry.
CR: Did you view this as a risk?
AS: After we were doing it, I would hear people to say to me and Paul, you guys are doing a movie together? That’s weird, that doesn’t make sense.
PTA: It’s not weird when you’re doing your work, and it is weird when someone snaps you out of it. Adam Sandler? You guys? That snaps you back but when you’re in the work, there’s nothing odd at all.
CR: Is writing what comes first for you?
PTA: Writing is great because it’s the alone time for the most part. The recharging of your batteries. You get to constantly be working, but you can conduct a bit of a life at the same time, and you can go anywhere in the world and that’s sort of a wonderful thing, and it’s alone time before it becomes a completely social experience for the next two years, when all you’re doing is interacting with people. It is nice to come to the end of the movie, and be alone for a while.
CR: Do you feel lucky? I feel happiest when I’m working with people that I care about. But the idea of working, the joy of working if you are doing things that you enjoy are you are with people that genuinely care about, and there’s a shared passion, there’s nothing better. Do you agree?
AS: I do agree. You get to share, I don’t know, when people talk about the movie and walk out of the theatre and like it, and I get to share that with Paul, and Emily, and Philip Hoffman, and Louie and everybody in the movie. It is cool to have that connection for the rest of your life.
CR: Phil Hoffman’s great.
AS: Yeah, he’s great in the movie, too. He’s very nice.
PTA: He’s pretty....hot stuff.
CR: He was in Red Dragon, too.
CR: Do you go to movies a lot?
AS: Yeah, I’ll go and see that. [laughs] I do, and I go to the movies a lot, me and the girl sit down together. I enjoy popcorn, and the –
CR: In disguise, though?
AS: No, no, no.
PTA: I’d like to see that. [laughs]
CR: Is he putting me on? [laughs]
PTA: No no no, I’d like to see him go in disguise, because that’s so far from him.
CR: They’ll leave you alone?
AS: If I go to a movie and it’s very light and crowded in there, people will say hello. Once the movie starts, unless I’m in it, then it’s pretty weird. You don’t want to have the whole crowd know you’re there.
CR: You don’t want to be seen watching your own movies.
AS: I might affect the audience, they might want to laugh harder...or boo harder.
CR: How many times have you seen [Punch-Drunk Love]?
AS: Well, I saw it with the man himself, alone, a few times.
CR: Take me there as you are watching this. Is it clinical? Are you having fun, saying man, weren’t we good?
PTA: [laughs] I sort of showed him cut scenes, but I thought the best way, the best thing to do was for him and I to go and watch it at my house, and sort of wonder what we’d done, and talk about it some more, it’s sort of a weird thing because it’s kind of over for him at that point and he has to stare himself for an hour and a half, and you want to make sure it’s a comfortable venue. There you are! Are you still alive? Are you breathing? Are you happy? But, I think we knew, we worked so closely together, it wasn’t like there were going to be any total surprises. We knew what we were both working towards, and it was kind of nice to share it and I think that we were -- we had some pride. I think we did have a really nice night that night and felt a lot of, looking back on it, and two years worth of work, that you could help but be happy.
AS: Very proud of it...I’m just excited for people to see it. It’s like, when we watched it alone, and then we were in Toronto a couple weeks ago and watched it with a big crowd, at 11 at night, and when we watched it alone, I didn’t know how people were going to respond to it when they saw it. I know that the movies I’ve done before, the full intention is to make an audience laugh, and to get as many laughs as we can get. All of the sudden, when we were alone, I was like ‘oh wow, I don’t know what the response is gonna be’, and then in Toronto, it was pretty interesting that Barry Egan’s pain was getting a lot of laughs. His journey.
CR: Thank you for coming, good to see you. The movie is Punch-Drunk Love. It opens on October 11th in New York and LA, it opens nationally on October 18th. I hope you’ll come back.
AS: I would love to. It was fun.
CR: Thank you for joining us, we’ll see you next time.